I Have Gray Hair, Stretch Marks, And Love Handles…Because I’m a *Human Person*

Old friends

Image by Kevin Dooley under Creative Commons license.

Sigh.

I don’t know what it is about today; about this week or this month… Maybe it’s been years now, maybe a lifetime—but I’m hitting a little bit of a tipping point when it comes to how I perceive my body and its various shortcomings. For review, let’s list out what’s wrong with me (limited to physical appearance, of course—we only have so much room here):

  • gray hair
  • deep forehead wrinkles…nay—crevasses
  • stretch marks (thanks kids)
  • flabby arms (or underarm dingle-dangle, as Ruthie would say)
  • love handles
  • untamed bikini line
  • splotchy pores on legs
  • dry lips
  • cellulite
  • knobby knees
  • hairy uprising on the facial region
  • several “companion pounds” I’ll call them, that may never leave me…

And you know what? Who gives a shit?

I have all of those things because I’m a human person. I am a human person who has yet to develop some crazy disorder that prevents me from aging. So, as I get older—as we all are forced to do by the time-space continuum—I look older. And, I ask again, who gives a even a tiny turd about it?!

Take just a moment to think about how nuts it is that we try to stop aging. I mean, when you see a product in the store labeled “anti-aging,” do you think, “What kind of crack pot monkey dreamed that up, and how stoned was the group of people that launched it into reality?” Because that’s what you should think. That’s what we should ALL think.

The Silver Fox of Snark

English: Steve Martin at the 120th Anniversary...

English: Steve Martin at the 120th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall in MOMA, New York City in April 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I started going gray in my mid-twenties. It’s not really a look that most people want to cultivate. I discovered I was gray when I stopped dying my hair. I was like, “I’m gonna be all natural and embrace myself and yadda yadda,” and my head replied, “Well, that’s fun because we’ve changed a few things around here.” And there it was. I kind of decided (likely due to my frequently mentioned laziness) that it is way too much fuss to dye away the gray. I just didn’t have the energy to put up a 70-year-long fight against, of all things, my freaking hair.

So here I am nearly a decade later and I’ve got a whole lot of that stuff sprouting out of my head. Every now and again it bothers me, but I really don’t care. My plan is to let it all come in and take over, then I’ll rock that business like I’m Steve Martin. I mean, look at that guy’s hair. Pure, 100% silver white and no one cares. Which brings me to a sticking point…

Men are allowed to age. Women are not.

Yep. That’s the deal. Steve Martin sports his gray hair like nobody’s business and he seems distinguished. Hillary Clinton grows her hair out and pulls it back instead of coiffing it just so and people go bananas. Hey, people: shut up. Because Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton is allowed to look however she wants. She’s allowed to get older, and to decide not to invest endless time and money into pretending she’s not getting older. Just like I am. We’re all allowed—men and women—to age with grace, and dignity, even affection (!) for our changing selves. My new rule: if Steve Martin can do it, so can I.

And then there’s the Thinspiration problem

I think the reason this is all on my mind right this second is because I keep happening upon what I’ve learned is called “thinspiration.” It’s like all those “how to drop 10 lbs in a month” or that picture of a woman squeezing her leg with the caption “how to solve the cellulite problem.” (Here’s a hint: stop squeezing your leg like that!)

Pinterest is brimming with these things, but so is the Today show, major news outlets, magazines—basically everywhere you look, you can find some “solution” for the problem of your—ahemnormal human body.

And to revisit my last point, how many dudes do you think are trying to solve their “cellulite problems”? How many under-eye creams do you think dudes are buying? Waxing kits? Boxes of hair dye? Skin primers? Lip balms? Anti-whatever-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you salves? Not nearly as many as women are. If a guy can save his money to go to the movies instead spending money to rip/bleach/laser blast his hair off, don’t you think you’re allowed to do the same? And menfolk, if you find yourselves falling into the trap of needing to look like a glowing, 2% body fat stone sculpture of a human, don’t worry about it. No one cares. Be a real human person with skin and hair and flaws. It’s okay. For all of us.

I don’t need to feel beautiful

I think our normal response in this discussion is to affirm beauty. To say, “No, no! You look [enter appropriate compliment here]!” And while this, indeed, is quite comforting, it doesn’t entirely solve the problem. Because, you know what? I’m not going to be “beautiful” when I’m 85. In fact, I’ll likely fall well below the beauty standard far, far before then. So will you. Even if you get surgery and shellac the crap out of yourself, everyone’s going to know that you’re not a 16-year-old girl. (Which is, apparently, our effed up standard for what people should always look like.)

I need to feel human. I need to watch time mark the days around my eyes and on my hips and through my hair and somehow feel more like myself, not less. I want each season to bring new scars, new wrinkles and more sag and for all that to make me feel that somehow, some way, I’m winning. I’m living. I’m human. I’m aging. It’s great.

Closing eyes and clicking heels

I want to believe all of these words through and through, without batting an eye. I want to banish that pang of guilt I feel every time I’m presented with the b.s. yardstick society so politely reminds me I’m not measuring up to. I want to embrace my changing, aging body without the knee-jerk reaction to sculpt it, starve it, or slather it into some other, better form. But for now, I’m closing my eyes, and clicking my heels, just hoping I’ll be transported to a mental home, free of these crazy, shrieking, body-hating monkeys.

And so, heroes of the internet with sagging boobs, and gray hair, and furry potbellies, I ask you to join me. Try with me. Get everyone you know to be down with aging. Wouldn’t it be rad if in 2033 there isn’t a single person out there writing this same freaking blog post? Fighting these same shrieking monkeys? There’s no place like…

What do you think?

(p.s. Check out this TED talk from model Cameron Russell. If models are still bummed about how they look after, you know, being the model for how people should look, maybe we’ve got it all wrong, huh?)

Everyone’s Better Than You at Everything

Head in Hands

Head in Hands by Alex E. Proimos, on Flickr

The internet teaches us new lessons every day. There are nuggets of knowledge littering every IP address and data package from here to Nauru and back. Being the perpetual student that I am, I keep my ear to the ground and my eyes peeled for whatever enlightening bit the internet wishes to reveal to me and…I’ve finally discovered the #1 lesson that it has to offer:

Everyone is Better Than You at Everything

Yes. It’s true. Whatever you’re doing, you’re not doing it very well. There are many, many people—droves of people, really—doing what you’re doing, but better. For instance…

People Are Better Than You at Parenting

Whether they’re tiger mom-ing, French mom-ing, attaching themselves, or detaching themselves—WHATEVER they’re doing, it’s better than what you’re doing. They run play groups. Moms breastfeed their children in public until they’re 5 years old without batting an eye. Dads coach the soccer team and build tree houses fit for the queen. They’re masters of cognitive development. Of discipline. Structure. Diapering. At-home science projects. Themed birthday parties. Whatever there is to be done as a parent, they’re doing it better than you. You might as well ship your kid to the zoo. You’re doing a terrible job.

People Are Better Than You at Home Decorating

Sure, you have decent furniture. You have a photo or two matted and framed. You have an accent wall. It’s like you’re not even trying. Because you know what? People are decorating the crap out of their homes. People are out there, upcycling, DIYing and ombre-ing every surface in sight. They’ve woven chic waste baskets out of plastic bags. Their laundry rooms are like five-star hotels for dirty socks. Where you see a box of plastic spoons, they see a custom-painted, hand-made chrysanthemum mirror. Every last item they own is coordinated, organized, arranged and exhibited with the perfect blend of exactitude, whimsy and glamour. Your home, to these home decorating mavens, is little more than a “before” picture. How do you sleep at night in that?

People Are Better Than You at Working Out

People are doing it to it out there! They’ve got pithy sayings. They’ve got fancy shoes. They’ve got health shakes. They’ve got gym memberships. They’ve got ROCK! HARD! ABS! When the going gets tough, they don’t cry like you do. They don’t sweat like a weenie, they sweat like it’s their JOB. When they sweat, they say, “Sweat is fat crying! Yeah! Air kick!” Then they do some bicep curls and drink a gallon of lemon-cucumber-mint detox juice. Where the heck is your detox juice? Nowhere. That’s where.

People Are Better Than You at Being Productive

How are people managing being better than you at parenting, home decorating AND working out? Simple. They’re better than you at being productive. They have lists. They have organizational structures for said lists. They have techniques. They get up early. They power nap. They multitask teleconferences while bleaching their kitchen grout and whipping up a crock pot meal. They could live your entire life on Tuesdays alone. In fact, it’d be best to just try to slip your laundry in with theirs, or try to sneak your to-do list onto their fridge because—let’s face it—that’s about as close as you’re gonna get to being even half as productive as these life masterminds.

So there you have it: evidence that every single person on the internet is doing everything better than you. Of course, there’s also the possibility that people don’t photograph, post, or describe in elegant detail the shitstorm that happens before and after the shutter clicks. There’s a teensy, weensy chance that the internet doesn’t show us real people—it shows us über-people; people at their highest moment, with no trace of failure, messiness, or inelegance. It’s that, or you’re the worst possible human ever. One of the two.

Things I Don’t Understand

Not Too Bright

Photo by JD Hancock @ Flickr.

Most of the time, I’m pretty with it. I go around doing things, giving high-fives and fist-bumps like a champ. I can bake like a freaking wizard. I’m decent on the guitar. I taught myself how to write Applescripts. I also framed out and installed a jet tub with my husband.

I’m just saying…I’m no slouch. Yes, I’m supremely lazy, but I actually learn and do stuff on a daily basis. I’m a functioning adult (mostly).

So, that’s why I’m so frustrated (and a little embarrassed) by the following things I don’t understand. They’re not even complicated. I mean, I should be able to just figure this stuff out. Nonetheless, here they are.

I Don’t Understand How to Recycle

OMG. Help me.

Now, we didn’t even have a recycling bin for the first few years we lived in San Diego, and someone told me that when you throw recyclables in the trash, someone sorts it later and it all gets recycled anyway. So I decided I wasn’t lazy or stupid, I was CARING. About the ECONOMY. Yeesh.

But now, we DO have a recycling bin. It has pictures on the outside of what you should put in it. For some inexplicable reason, this is not enough for me. Do I put all kinds of bottles in there? And what about the caps? Where do the caps go? And plastic? It has a 1 and a 2 recycle symbol on the bin. Does that mean the other plastics can’t go in there? What happens if I DO put a 3 plastic in there? Is the recycling person going to fashion it into a shiv and come to my house to gut me like a recycling-ignorant fish? Because that’s basically what I think is going to happen.

So, potential recyclable in hand, my mind flips through these thoughts like a Rolodex of absurdity, then I panic and just put the thing in the trash. And close the cabinet door. Quickly. And pretend it never happened.

I do this multiple times a day.

I Don’t Understand How to Freeze Things

Now, I’m not saying I don’t understand that when you put something in the freezer, it gets frozen. I get that part. Check. The trouble arises when I think about what should be frozen and what shouldn’t. I mean, raw, uncooked chicken, straight from the store? Got it. Yes. Water in the form of ice cubes? Yes. Coffee in the form of ice cubes? Yes. (If there’s anything to be done with coffee, I’ll figure it out. I’m highly motivated there.) Old 35mm film? Yes. And anything you bought from the store already frozen? Yes. Into the freezer it goes.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention, that means that my freezer has ice cubes, coffee ice cubes, chicken, frozen peas and old 35mm film. That is it. Nothing else. Because when I think about putting anything else in there, the aforementioned panic sets in and I just can’t follow through.

What happens when you freeze cooked chicken? Does it develop Ebola or something? Or turn into dust? What about cheese? Can you freeze cheese? Is there a good reason to do that? I DON’T KNOW!

There are all kinds of thrifty masterminds out there that cook a month’s worth of food in one day and then freeze it. So then—all high and mighty—they have a month’s worth of home-cooked meals that appear magically like the rainbow out of a Care Bear’s belly. Clearly, those people are better than me. I mean—clearly.

I Don’t Understand Skin Care

Everyone has skin, so it stands to reason that everyone would know how to take care of their skin. Nope. Not me. I just…it’s a lost cause. I wash my face in the shower. That’s it. I know. I KNOW! Sigh. I am who I am. And until they make microscopic robots that clean your pores while you sleep, that’s the way it’s gonna be.

I Don’t Understand Reddit

Do you know what Reddit is? A lot of people do. A lot of people use it. It’s like a link sharing website of some fashion or another and, as an even partially decent blogger, I should know how to Reddit things. (Is is even a verb? Like Google? Or Xerox?) I’m sorry to put this out there Reddit…ers, but the Reddit community is slightly terrifying.

I’ve posted a few of links on there, some of which have been ignored entirely as if they have leprosy. A couple have gotten significant numbers of clicks, as if they have leprosy, but leprosy is really in this season. It feels like sometimes I anger the Reddit gods and sometimes I please them. I dance around every time I share a link, just in case that makes a difference. I use a lot of hip action. It might be making things worse.

The worst part about the whole Reddit thing is that I read a couple of articles on using Reddit and it seems that there is STRICT and very SERIOUS etiquette to be observed. Holy crap. I’m relatively confidant that I’m not observing those things. I mean, I’m reading the sub-reddit rules and stuff (if this is gibberish to you, it’s fine. It’s mostly gibberish to me, and I’m writing it.) but I’m pretty sure I’m effing things up. And if you don’t observe the rules? They excommunicate you! But they don’t even tell you! They just stop allowing you to post any links. And I’m pretty sure they go through your recycling and make shivs of number 5 bottles and then cut out your innards. At least, I think that’s what I read.

If any of you splendid readers understand any of these things, please share. Clearly, I’m not only a danger to myself, but to others. Don’t let me walk around, dirty-faced like a spunky hobo, trying to recycle frozen magazines whilst angering the Reddit hoards.

Please, it’s for all of us.

Christmas Killed the Spirit of Christmas

Broken Angel Nativity

People. I am SO. tired. Pooped, if you will. It’s six days before Christmas and we have been elfing our freaking socks off around here (whoa…kinda sounds super dirty. Hmm.) and now I’m sleepy.

Christmas, since the beginning of my life, has been a bitch. To start things off, I was born on Christmas. Now this is the single dumbest day of the year to be born. Trying to hold a celebration for little ol’ you in the midst of those two rabid attention-getters, Jesus and Santa, is like trying to have reasonable discourse on Facebook. No one cares. It just isn’t going to happen. So I ended up getting those Christmas/birthday combo presents for a few years, then my parents decided to celebrate on a different day and somehow chose Valentine’s day (?)…I know. I don’t know what was going on there, either.

But that major scheduling conflict was just the beginning. By the time I was actually old enough to engage in the Christmas season, my family had cultivated habits that resulted in all-out, full-tilt calamity every year. It was as if Christmas staged a surprise coup on our household and, every year, we were caught unawares. “Whhhaaaa? Christmas again?!” we’d shout as we took cover behind the recliner. “What will we do?!!”

Takin' it back…

We’d end up wandering stores on December 23rd, just putting things in the cart in a sort of red-eyed desperation. We’d all go to the store together, then break into groups and go shopping in different combinations so we could buy presents for each other. It was a big, complicated, last-minute, stress-filled exercise in consumerism, which typically ended with us back at home, decorating the tree and arguing, while a Sandi Patty Christmas (anyone?) cassette played in the background.

But that was when I was a kid. Now I’m an adult, and I decided a few years ago that I was going to do Christmas awesome. I was going to plan, and be thoughtful and considerate and contemplate the “reason for the season” and all kinds of rad crap. There would be no panic, no frenzy, no meaningless, obligatory purchases…no, my house would be filled to the brim with good feelings and cinnamon smell. We’d sit around laughing through our eggnog mustaches while classic Christmas songs caressed our ears. We would all smile at how ol’ Duke the dog loved to join when Jingle Bells came on. “Ha ha ha!” we’d say. Just like in the movies.

I would start by making all of my presents by hand. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Okay, just stop right there. Yes, that is a cute idea. But another way to say it is, “I will start a sweatshop and employ only myself.” It was madness. Madness, I tell you! I was doing so much knitting that my fingers were cramping like I was an 85-year-old arthritic woman. The tips of my fingers throbbed when I finally went to sleep at night. So the next year, I decided to just sew all the presents because, you know, that would be easier. Nope, just as hard. Just as miserable.

So this year, we’re just buying presents. And somehow, it’s still crazy. I started my Christmas list in September, you all. SEPTEMBER! But it doesn’t matter! There is literally no planning day early enough to avoid the insanity that is Christmas. I don’t think it’s just me, either. I mean, that one lady pepper sprayed other shoppers. That’s gotta be a bad omen for our whole society.

I did buy a cinnamon candle, though, so I’ve got that going for me. But I actually really hate eggnog. And we don’t even have a dog. And if we DID have a dog, I’d name him Bilford O’Reily-ahan, not Duke. I don’t know why I thought I could build an idyllic Christmas full of nog-drinking and dog-admiring.

But I AM trying. I’m trying, people, okay? Next year I’ll start my shopping (not just planning) in March. I’ll buy presents and wrap them and stick them in the closet so they’ll be a surprise even to me when Christmas rolls around. By the time my daughter is cognizant of Christmas I’ll have this crap down.

The Truth About Kids, Part 3: Is It Worth It?

Having kids is…?

We’ve detailed the bad. We’ve considered the good. And now it’s time for the big question…

Is having kids worth it?

No.

Just kidding. The real answer is…

maybe.

If you think having a kid will save your marriage/relationship/sense of worth/etc., it will definitely, absolutely not be worth it. That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Unless, of course, you’ve found that sleep deprivation, round-the-clock crying, piles of feces, and exhaustion have helped you out in the past. In which case…er…no, I think things are still going to turn out poorly. That’s not to say that your kid won’t still be awesome, and you won’t still enjoy good times, it’s just that they can’t (and shouldn’t) perform the function of fixing something or filling a void. Having kids is not about what you get from them. It’s about giving to them. In perpetuity.

If you’re ready for that and you decide to have kids (or have them already), here’s what you can take with you on the dark days:

It’s Worth It Because Loving People Is Worth It

Like any really, really good relationship, the ups and downs are worth it because of the love you share. (I know, I got all hallmark-y, but it’s true). Being a parent—I mean actually doing the required tasks of parenting—kinda sucks. I don’t like changing diapers, or dealing with fits, or cleaning up messes. I don’t like that an endless torrent of need is slowly carving a new and crazy landscape in my psyche. Nope, I don’t like those things. I’m pretty sure that people who say they do are lying. Not 100% sure, but like 97% sure.

But sometimes it’s the darkest moments that help you find your way.

The days in which I wrote these blog posts were particularly difficult. I don’t know if the critter was getting a cold, or teething, or having difficulty with the time change…maybe she was upset about the disappearing upward mobility in the US.  It could have been several different things. But she wasn’t napping (a parent’s kryptonite as I mentioned before), and she spent nearly every waking moment whining. She was so inconsolable that I thought I would lose it. I cried. I prayed. I was sad for her. And sad for me. If parenting were just a job, I would have seriously considered quitting. Some days it just feels like too much to bear. Destitute, I asked her if she wanted to dance.

My daughter loves music. She loves to dance. So, I turned on Pandora, and by providence, the very first song that came on was this: Gold In Them Hills by Ron Sexsmith.

I had heard the song before, and liked it, but as I swayed my sad little girl back and forth, the lyrics rang out like a balm to my soul.

Cover of "Cobblestone Runway"

Cover of Cobblestone Runway

I know it doesn’t seem that way
But maybe it’s the perfect day
Even though the bills are piling
And maybe Lady Luck ain’t smiling

But if we’d only open our eyes
We’d see the blessings in disguise
That all the rain clouds are fountains
Though our troubles seem like mountains

There’s gold in them hills
There’s gold in them hills
So don’t lose heart
Give the day a chance to start

The very next song that came on was the Adele cover of  Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love. (UGH. Seriously!? How much crying did I need to do that day?) Me and that song—we have history.

When our daughter was only a month and a half old, I was holding her in the living room, exhausted. She had a problem with her heart that had landed her in the NICU during her third week of life, and we had an incredibly rocky time keeping her fed and happy. Every day seemed like another daunting battle and I was just so, so tired. Through my exhaustion, Make You Feel My Love came on, and I heard the words that I hadn’t had time to figure out yet—words I was currently living: I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue. I’d go crawling down the avenue. No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do, to make you feel my love.” I, like nearly every parent, had taken a beating. But I heard those words and I knew…I just knew…I’d take more.

On this terrible parenting day, a year and a half later, after my daughter had screamed at me all morning, I held her and cried as our song played on the computer. Her little hand held on tight to the back of my neck. She sighed and laid her head down. She was tired, too. Adele kept singing, my heart broke, and I decided again: it is worth it.

(I’ll leave you with the full song & lyrics, just in case you need to cry for a while.)

 

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

I’d go hungry I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love, to make you feel my love

And that’s it. That’s the truth about kids. Be sure to join me next week when we talk about something less sappy. Like flame throwers, or scorpions or the legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Something like that.

The Truth About Kids, Part 2: Having Kids Is Not The Worst Thing Ever

I’m continuing my three-part series on kids. If you haven’t already read part 1 you should probably do that, lest you think  I’m the having-kids-is-like-riding-a-unicorn-whilst-listening-to-Enya type.

Done?

Perf. Moving on.

Having Kids Is Not The Worst Thing Ever

It's Not Always Terrible

Original photo by theodorescott

Many parents love to tell non-parents about the ghastly doom that is having children. They especially like to tell pregnant women and their mates things like, “Just you wait,” or, “Enjoy your last days of freedom,” or “Life as you know it is over.” You know, helpful stuff like that.

Kid beard/beanie

You can buy this for your kid! That's hilarious! (hat tip to Amy Reams & Pinterest)

Now, as I mentioned before, some things do change. And kinda permanently. Or, at least, for a decade or two. And that’s a big deal. But, having kids isn’t like putting fire ants in your pants or wrestling wild boars. No one sticks needles in your eyes when you awake in the morning. It’s not the worst thing ever.

True, being a parent is a continual gauntlet of shame, confusion, guilt and frustration. But just when you think you should just let yourself get disemboweled by a swinging battle-axe, you get hit with an unexpected bundle of sweet, amazing, adorable love and ridiculousness. That’s how they get you. So you get up, dust yourself off, and jump to the next platform.

For your reading pleasure and personal enrichment, here is a list of things that make being a parent not so horrible:

A. You are not immediately forced to become a completely different person just because you have kids. This one’s important. You don’t *have* to go out and join a mommy club or whatever. You don’t *have* to only hang out with other parents. You don’t *have* to alienate all your childless friends by making your life all-kid, all the time. Honest. You don’t have to. You’re not being abducted at night to become part of a cult. You’re just having a kid. Don’t get all weird about it.

B. Voluntary (albeit gross and slobbery) kisses. Come on, even if you think kids are annoying, you have to admit that that’s cute.

Baby in a bag of groceries

See? That's fun!

C. Hilarious/awesome kid clothes. Again, even if you’re anti-kid, you know that beanie up there is pretty darn great. There’s just something outstanding about seeing humorous clothing thrust upon a defenseless tiny person.

D. Having a squidgy little prop to take funny pictures of. Is this the same as having a yacht or  a truckload of beef jerky or a vacation home in Paris? No. But it’ll give you a chuckle. You gotta be thankful for the little things.

E. Getting to watch a teensy human grow, develop and learn cool things from day 1. This is actually really cool. It’s remarkable watching someone learn all the little things that every human has to learn—that YOU had to learn. The whole process is fascinating and a little magical.

The really good things…well, they’re trickier. They sneak up on you a bit.

Recently, Stephen and I took a big trip. Our first really big trip without our daughter since she was born. We did all types of adult-y stuff to prepare (will, life insurance, etc.), and…we decided to write our daughter letters in case we died.

Now, this is a sad freaking thing to do, regardless of who it’s for. Even if you don’t have a wildly overactive imagination like I do, you’re still gonna get super bummed, super fast. I’m guessing that’s just inherent to beyond-the-grave activities. But, I can say, that it is 2.8 (or a billion) times sadder, if you’re doing this activity with your kid in mind. But I wasn’t going to let my orphaned kid go through life without a letter from her mother, so I sat down and did it.

And I felt like I was going to be torn in half. I just kept thinking about how she would never know, not fully, how spectacular she is to me. She’d never know that I think her laugh is the best laugh that’s ever been heard. She’d never know how much I believed in her or how my love for her goes into my bones. The idea of not being able to wipe her tears when life inevitably threatens to break her, or not being able to bear witness to the gift she is to the world…those ideas, they’re almost too much to bear.

I don’t think I truly knew how intensely I loved her until I tried to cram it all in a letter for her to read in the event that I got swept away by a tsunami or murdered by an antelope. I tried my best to communicate the unending strength, depth and vibrancy of my love for her, but I know I failed. Maybe you guys can corroborate for me if Big Foot sneaks into my apartment, carries me off into the forest and feeds me to a bear.

So, I am a little absurdly gooey about my kid. I really do get stupid with love for her. She’s kinda awesome. But is it worth it? Is it really, really worth it to have kids just because they turn your brain to love-mush when you try to write them in-case-I-die letters? Tune in for the last installment when I conveniently provide you with the correct answer.

The Truth About Kids, Part 1: Having Kids Is Not The Best Thing Ever

Ahh, children. They’re…weird.

Our society is also pretty weird when it comes to children, so you end up with exponential weirdness. It’s a shame that parenting is such a lightning rod issue, and that we all take ourselves so seriously. It makes camaraderie and support so much more elusive.

So, I thought I’d share a little of my limited parenting experience, in hopes that you might feel better about your current situation as a parent. Or, if you’re someone who has been crippled by parentanoia, (I just made that up right now. I know.) maybe you’ll feel a little better about the prospect of having kids. Assuming that you want kids. Which you don’t have to want to have kids. I mean, eh…well, we’ll talk about that later.

This is just part one, so don’t get all frazzled if you feel like this is one-sided or wrong or evil or whatever. Read the other parts when they’re published, then get all frazzled. Here we go…

Having Kids Is Not The Best Thing Ever

It's Not Always Paradise

(Original photo by victoriapeckham)

Some people will tell you all kinds of unbelievably gooey stories about how great kids are, and how they didn’t know the meaning of life until they had kids, and how everything else pales in comparison, et cetera. People say, “I can’t even remember what life was like before we had children!” Oh, really? I do. It was awesome.

Before kids, I could (and did) sleep in until 10:30. Before kids, no one had ever (never!) vomited directly on my person. I did not have to repeat the same, exact request 78 times a day. I never googled “light-colored bowel movements.” I did not have to wedge my personal  interests into an hour and a half nap window twice a day. Really, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The world was my freaking oyster, and I didn’t even know it. Sigh.

Having kids is crazy hard, and there is no amount of cuteness that will un-exhaust you. Having been on both sides of the fence, I can tell you that being a parent is 2.8 times harder than having a job. Or a billion times harder. Something in there. What do you do at a job? Put on pants and go have adult conversations? Oh, geeze, make sure you take a break from that!* Your co-workers do not use crying as their primary mode of communication. They talk. Nicely, most of the time. Even better, they email. You don’t even have to look at them! Even the most insane customer is insane at a distance. Children are insane in your home. I would easily liken being a parent to working in customer service, that is, if the customer then followed you home, crapped his pants, and cried until you cleaned it up. With your hands, I tell you! Your hands!

The Office Monkey

This is easy! (Original photo by shazwildcat)

*Some jobs are actually super hard and could give parenting a run for its money. Like being a cop. Or a solider. Stuff like that. Stuff that basically involves a very real risk of death. Anything short of a brush with death can’t even hold a candle to parenting.

As a parent, the entirety of your sanity is utterly dependent on whether or not your child takes a nap. (What in God’s name happens when children stop napping!? I don’t even know!) There is a button, deep inside every parent’s brain that, when pressed, makes it seem like all the good things of the world have grown fangs and are coming to bite you in the ass, and all the bad things have taken residence in your very soul. That button is magically pressed when a wee sob creeps its way through the closed door at the end of the hall at 1:30PM (instead of 2 freaking 15, dangit! 2:15!)

And if the naps don’t get you, the constant, incessant second-guessing of every single thing you do, have done, or will do in the future, will. This is not only because parenting is harder than anything short of ninja-ry, but because everyone thinks they can do your job. Everyone has an opinion. For some people, that’s because they have kids—they’ve been there. And because the human brain is wired to justify everything we do, they think what they did was the best choice ever. Some people don’t have kids, but if they did have a kid, he certainly wouldn’t be throwing a fit. Or pouring milk down his pants. Or eating 17 gummy bears off the grass. They would never, in their sweetest voices, tell little Frankie that they’re going to sell him in Mexico if he doesn’t stop putting sand in Mama’s purse. (It was a JOKE, people. A joke. Was it a dark joke? Yes. But still a joke. Calm down.)

And the passing opinion isn’t even the tip of the iceberg  in terms of the criticism you face as a parent. Why? Because of the damn internet. Every criticism, small or large, can be justified and magnified through the holy powers of the internet. Vaccinate your kid? Well, the internet will tell you how that’s turning her brain to mush. Didn’t vaccinate? The internet says your kid has 12.6 hours to live. Spanking? The internet says your Hitler’s BFF. Don’t spank? You’re a crazy hippie. Trying to decide if you’re a terrible parent by referencing the internet is like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon starting with Demi Moore—there’s only one degree of separation, so it’s easy to see the connection. But in this case, you’re Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon is embarrassing, mortifying, damaging failure. Thank you, oh wondrous internet.

So, you’ve lost your freedom. You’re exhausted, covered in poop and your left eye is twitching a little. You’re begging God (and Superman? President Obama? It doesn’t even matter!) to help your kid sleep through this nap and the internet is telling you that your poop-encrusted insanity is largely your fault. Magical, no? With that description, I’m sure you’re wondering if I did actually try to sell my kid in Mexico. Well, I didn’t, because I love my kid like crazy. Why? Because having kids is not the worst thing ever. So be sure to stay tuned for the next installment, when we see what’s lurking on the other side of the coin.

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